Puzzle pieces still missing in Longhorn clubhouse

Vanessa Le

The Longhorns (7–6) watched their winning percentage slowly dwindle from .700 to .538 after a three-game skid against No. 12 Stanford over the weekend.

But their starting pitchers dazzled despite the losses.

All four threw quality starts and only gave up five runs the whole weekend. Freshman right-hander Blair Henley tossed eight innings for a complete game, while junior pitcher Kyle Johnston joined the mix by throwing a career-high 8.2 innings.

Sophomore starter Nolan Kingham combined efforts with sophomore reliever Beau Ridgeway to pitch a shutout victory against the Cardinal on Thursday. 

However, the starters on the mound didn’t receive much help from the Longhorn bullpen after Ridgeway’s outing. Texas relief pitchers couldn’t handle Stanford’s late-inning pressure during tight games Friday and Saturday, and the Cardinal cashed in with back-to-back walk-off wins.

“We have plenty of arms, but when it comes down to it, we still have to go out there and play,” redshirt junior pitcher Morgan Cooper said. “Everybody comes in here, whether it’s a Tuesday or a Friday, and wants to beat us more than probably anybody else in the country, and that’s just something we’ve got to handle.”

The Longhorns also lacked run support throughout the weekend. Texas batters only scraped up five runs in the team’s three-straight losses at Palo Alto.

Texas expected to rely on junior right-fielder Patrick Mathis — who finished first on the team in slugging percentage at .477 last year — to play a leading role at the plate this season. But Mathis is currently sitting at a .176 batting average and has yet to bring in any extra-base hits.

“I think he’s a much better hitter when he uses the entire field,” head coach David Pierce said. “He’s capable of driving the ball to both gaps. So he has to get back to that.”

Despite his slow start to the season, the Longhorns hope Mathis can make the right adjustments to create more offensive production moving forward.

The Longhorns will aim to redeem themselves when they host Richmond on Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. But the team has made it clear that their confidence is just fine. 

“We’re so close together as a team,” redshirt junior second baseman Bret Boswell said. “It makes it easy because we’re all there fighting for each other and with each other. We’re just out there having fun, and as long as it’s still fun, I think we’re going to have that confidence.”